1st Round – Andrew McCutchen OF
McCutchen is the top prospect in the Pirates’ organization, the crown jewel of a bleak minor league system. Just over a month removed from his 21st birthday, he has the tools to be a very good Major League player. McCutchen was good in 2005 and 2006, jumping four levels in that time. However, he encountered his first hurdle this past year, struggling badly with Altoona in the first half of the season. He improved as the summer began, but was hitting only .258/.327.383 when the Pirates surprisingly promoted him in August. Most likely, this was a desperation move made by general manager Dave Littlefield, who would be fired before the end of the season. McCutchen held his own after the promotion to Triple-A Indianapolis, hitting .313/.347/.418 in 67 at-bats. Despite his disappointing 2007 season, centerfield at PNC Park appears to belong to McCutchen. He will likely begin 2008 back in Indianapolis, and we should see him in Pittsburgh before the end of the season. I would be very surprised if he is not the everyday centerfielder by the spring of 2009.
2nd Round – Brad Corley OF
Corley has typical plate discipline for a Pirate. With Williamsport in 2005, he walked only 16 times in 287 plate appearances. He moved up to Hickory the following season, and drew 18 walks in 575 trips to the plate. Corley spent most of 2007 with Lynchburg, and joined Altoona briefly at the end of the season. Overall, he walked 14 times in 557 plate appearances. In 1,419 minor league plate appearances, he has walked 48 times. That is only 3.4%. Unless that number improves dramatically, Corley will never see Pittsburgh.
3rd Round – James Boone OF
Boone was drafted out of Missouri in 2005 after posting a 1.050 OPS that season. However, he has battled injury problems his entire career, and only has 676 at-bats in three professional seasons. His stats have been okay (.272/.344/.413 overall), and they would likely be better if he was healthy, but he remains a huge question mark at this point. Boone has shown flashes of promise, such as the .327/.400/.495 line in 107 at-bats at Hickory to start 2007. If he can stay healthy, there still is a chance for this centerfielder.
4th Round – Brent Lillibridge SS
After struggling a bit in his first season, Lillibridge found his stride in 2006. Splitting the season between Hickory and Lynchburg, he hit .305/.419/.480. He also stole 53 bases in 66 attempts, and most saw him as the shortstop of the future for the Pirates. However, he was dealt to Atlanta in January 2007 as a part of the Mike Gonzalez-Adam LaRoche trade. He came back to earth this past season, hitting .282/.341/.417 in the Braves’ organization.
5th Round – Jeff Sues RHP
Sues has endured a forgettable career thus far. He was drafted in June 2005, but did not make his first appearance until 2007 because of arm injuries. He made eight starts for Hickory this past season, posted an ERA of 7.18 and missed the remainder of the season with another injury. I think it is safe to mark this pick down as a bust.
Other notable picks
8th Round – Steve Pearce 1B/OF
We all know Pearce’s 2007 story. He came into the season as an interesting player, and emerged as a legitimate prospect. He began the season in Lynchburg, then climbed the organizational ladder through Altoona and Indianapolis before finally reaching Pittsburgh in September. Overall, he hit .333/.394/.622 over three minor league levels and .294/.342/.397 in Pittsburgh. He should begin 2008 in Pittsburgh.
12th Round – Jason Delaney 1B/OF
Delaney posted an .811 OPS with Hickory in 2006, but was old for the league at 23. He hit well in Lynchburg this past season (.340/.432/.536 in 250 at-bats) but slowed down a bit after being promoted to Altoona (.265/.370/.404 in 223 at-bats). Delaney is a very interesting player in an offensively challenged organization, but at 25, he remains too old for his current level.
The Pirates’ 2005 draft was unimpressive, but was relatively better than most they have had in recent years. Dave Littlefield’s administration managed to not totally blow its first round pick (McCutchen), and even picked up some interesting hitters in the later rounds (Pearce, Delaney). Ultimately, there should be some solid Major League players that come out of this draft.